Ship surgeons spurned famine and convict Irish

A replica of the Jeanie Johnston, famine ship

Surgeons on board famine and convict ships exhibited strong anti-Irish sentiment in their reports it has been revealed.

Medical records from 1,200 ship surgeons from the period 1793 to 1880 have been released and they paint a grim portrait of how Irish convicts and famine passengers were treated.

One surgeon, Andrew Henderson, described the character of the Irish on board a convict ship as a “Complete tissue of inconsistency and stupidity.” He also found that the Irish constantly “brooded over their misfortunes.”

Another ship’s doctor described Irish women as “ignorant and stupid “. “This is too much the case among the lower Irish wrote James Greenlaw in 1844.

Irish women in particular seemed to be singled out.

Irish women on board a convict ship in 1832 were described as “very inferior to English women of the same class.”

”The most difficult thing is to get prevent them form smoking beneath deck and keeping themselves clean,” wrote ship’s doctor E.J. Bromley.
Thomas s Bell, another doctor stated that the “lower class of Irish generally aggravate their complains by despondency.”

However, some doctors were kinder. One said the Irish were “better scholars” than other convicts and more inclined to reading especially religious books.”

The files have just been released by the British National Archives after a two –year cataloguing process.

“These journals bring conditions on these ships to life. said medical research organizer Bruno Pappalardo.